ARRA money helps complete Port Oliver Recreation Area

Published Aug. 28, 2010

The Port Oliver Recreation Area at Barren River Lake is nearly complete thanks in part to approximately $1.3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds that supplied the remaining monies needed for the $3.3 million project. The first $2 million for the project was secured by Sen. Mitch McConnell in the fiscal year 2009 Federal Appropriations Bill.

The project, which was awarded to Howard W. Pence Inc., Aug. 31, 2009, is scheduled to be completed soon. The area may open temporarily for the Labor Day holiday weekend to give the public a chance to use the facilities that have been completed and then close again for a few weeks so construction in the area can be completed.

"This place will be packed if we can get it open by the holiday weekend," Barren River Lake Acting Park Manager Carlos Lopez said.

The recreation area includes two courtesy docks, a four-lane boat-ramp, a half-mile boardwalk that follows the shoreline, a large playground area, three restrooms, a picnic shelter and even an amphitheater that will be used for theatrical and cultural presentations.

"It has a couple different components which is a neat thing," Lopez said. "It meets the needs of the two main user groups of the lake—boaters and day-users."

The Port Oliver Recreation Area is unique because the entire project was built to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility guidelines. "You’ll see the railings on the boardwalk are lower in certain places," Lopez said, "That’s so our mobility impaired visitors confined to wheelchairs can easily roll their chairs to the edge of the boardwalk to fish."

Additionally, the boat ramp contains an ADA launching platform which will allow for easy boarding of those with mobility impairments.

The concept of the Port Oliver Recreation Area was developed as a result of local Allen County officials, business owners and boaters meeting with officials from Sen. McConnell’s office who were looking to develop a boat launching ramp and parking area sufficient to accommodate large bass fishing tournaments staged each year at Barren River Lake. After hearing that a favorable response would likely be coming on funding for the project, personnel from all four Green River Area lakes met and provided recommendations for site development. Thereafter, a team consisting of Kevin Salvilla, Barren River Lake park manager; Deryck Rodgers, former Barren River Lake park ranger (now at Nolin River Lake); Dave Dahle, park ranger; and Pat Hull, Green River Area operations project manager, developed a concept plan for the area in an effort to provide visitors with a variety of facilities. The development plan was based, in large part, on input received from the public. "We felt a responsibility to lake users to provide a wider range of facilities," Hull said.

"From the boardwalk to the tournament weigh-in shelter, playground equipment and amphitheater, there is potential for a variety of outdoor activities that enhance the quality of our lives and the image of the Corps of Engineers," Hull said.

"To be involved in the development of a facility of this size and scope is really a once-in-a-career project opportunity," Lopez said.